Pressure’s Off Ashleigh in Oz Open

Sarah Kemp of Australia plays the 18th hole on her way to the lead of six under par during the first round of The Women's Australian Open at the Royal Sydney Golf Club in Sydney, New South Wales. February 1-4, 2007. Picture: Tristan Jones / LETAshleigh Simon has returned an impressive opening round result on day 1 of the Women’s Australian Golf Open, being played at the Royal Sydney Golf Club, after finishing the first round three under par with Korea’s Hee Young Park and Amy Yang, three behind overnight leader Australian Sarah Kemp.

After representing South Africa with Laurette Maritz in a disappointing Women’s World Cup of Golf bid in Sun City during January, Simon seems to have shaken off the cobwebs, and is revelling in an improved game out of the limelight in the Ladies European Tour.

Maritz is also in the playing field along with South Africa’s Stacey Lee Bregman, Bregman finishing her round one over par, while the woes continue for Maritz, whose two early birdies were outweighed by four bogeys, and two double-bogeys, for a first-night finish of 7-over 79.

Bregman went one-over on the fourth hole, and stayed there until her first birdie on a lucky 13th, before two more birdies against a bogey and a double saw her finish the round on 73.

Simon picked up three birdies in the first five holes, before bogeys on the 6th and 10th, and a double on 9 set her back to one over par, but she returned strongly with birdies on 11, 13, 15 and 16 to stay in sight of the leaders ahead.

Australia was well represented by the three leading ladies in Sarah Kemp (-6, 66), and Nikki Campbell and Karrie Webb each five under for a finishing round of 67.

Kemp didn’t put a foot wrong all day, her birdies coming in pairs on holes 1 and 2, 4 and 5, finishing well with two more on 15 and 16 to end a faultless day at the top of the leaderboard, to end tied on her career-low round.

“Here I am again,” she smiled, back in the interview room. “This one’s better. I can get some money for this one,” her first 66 four years earlier recorded while playing as an amateur.

“My goal is to be in the last group because I will be in contention and there are heaps of people watching you – that’s fun. If I could do that I would be near the leaders,” she added.

“Coming second and third last year was nice but I’d like to win a tournament on the European Tour this year.”

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